The mysterious Vaporwave trio Blackleaf黒葉 describes their cryovolcanic fluid-processed flavor of the V-genre as Blackwave, and one can see where they are coming from indeed. This revelation is much more pregnant – and poignant – than the humongous title of their thirteen-track debut album released on Florida-based DMT Tapes and available at Bandcamp, but again, the artists help the befuddled traveler out and magnanimously reveal the meaning of the hiraganambulent aberrancy right on the front artwork itself: Lightwaves to wash her with love and tranquility, she had dreamed of the night and the spirit of the city of the ancients. With this poetic description and its simultaneous function as an accompanying text or explanatory note firmly in place, Blackleaf黒葉 succumb to a versatile – occasionally plethoric – pectin-loaded polarimetry that targets the various conventions, tricks and hopes the V-genre is known for. Yes, there are synth-fueled 80’s flumes. And yup, there’s the abiogenesis of a lonely saxophone in an anonymous metropolis. But all these differing and variable fermions are held together by something that only the album format can evoke: a strictly cohesive atmosphere or ambiance. These and many other characteristic traits will be approached and approximated below.


A surprisingly twisted – I even dare to say: Gothic – gateway is passed right in the opener A Greater Gift which oscillates between vocoder-infused guitar licks of the funky kind and a portentous legato mist of eerie church organs. The simultaneity is unreal, the constituents hopelessly incompatible, but no can do, this chimera bubbles and rocks! The adjacent Stand meanwhile has been reviewed in a recent edition of Vapor Vertebrae (04/2015 Part A) where it appeared in demo form. It continues the funky adventure, gets rid of the organ positrons and embraces the classic You And I by 70’s funkheads Delegation in elasticized form. With 12am – Midnight Cruise the nocturnal infestation receives the first treat of outright flamboyancy via Italo piano vesicles, stacked clavichord synths, inebriated backing choirs and cowbell coruscants, rounding off the first triptych of chromogenic tracks in Blackleaf黒葉’s vapor whorl.


Then there’s the nuts and bolts, flesh and blood, mica and gems which the Vaporwave trio seeded throughout the album. All these tunes cross the four-minute mark with ease and let the bystander absorb the density in a more elaborate fashion. Neurosis, for instance, is a Synth Pop belter launching in medias res, surprising with apocryphal narcotic billows that are as drugged as they are warped, eventually leading to scything punctilios that point towards the flavor of the Outrun substyle, were it not for the mellowed and slowed-down physiognomy of this piece. Watch out for the apex or middle section where the umbrageous drums and glagolithic guitars mercilessly boost the feeling of nothingness and desiccation. Also of note is 彼女の夢 (her dream) whose blurred bokeh and pale palinopsia eventually leads to a nostalgic midtempo precession that is carried by the quasi-crystalline whistling Rhodes synth, further ennobled by fir-green backing chords and ultimately purified by the energetic microloops at a later point. The multinucleate Ambient emerald 古代人の都市 (city of the ancients) serves as the grandiloquent closer of the album, residing in the high-density longitude of a semi-Industrial Drone track of the aeriform phylum, slowly growing into a pink noise solanum with hissing sinews and snorting superconductivities, eventually ending in a mis-chromosomed volatile veil of utter darkness.


While they don’t appear in stringent form, there are three short interludes that are the cream of the crop in terms of maintaining interest, augmenting lure and disappointing the synapses due to their crisp fugacity. The self-reference of 【休憩】 (pause) emits a wondrous stokehold ambience of deep alto flute isospins and thermal immersion drones, thus showcasing a minimalism which is boring and meaningless at first – especially so in a vivacious Vaporwave vestibule – but all the more nomological and shelter-esque in the given context. Then there is 死はイリュージョンに過ぎない (death is just an illusion) which approaches its auspicious topic with a solemn-majestic gravitas: hymnic synth columns merge with the metallicity of mech stomps and periglacial hi-hat magnetotails, erecting the power of pompous vistas and glowing phototropism. Ψ Drop rounds off the section of shorties with one of Vaporwave’s most clear-cut atmospheres, namely metropolitan saxes whose afterglow is reflected by the high-rise buildings of the plaza. The loneliness is somewhat scaled down with the aid of bustling interlocutions and conversations.


The long-winded 光の波は愛と静けさで彼女を洗浄するように、彼女は古代人の霊と都市の夜を夢見ていた sports a title that is almost histrionic, but the associated soundscapes that ultimately form a coherent whole known as the album format don’t overpromise this tendency at all. In fact, Blackleaf黒葉’s DMT debut annihilates the label’s Florida-based suntrap epithelium and turns the incandescent beams into a tawny fovea of chlorotic accretion. The aural cinematography is not necessarily stringent all the time, and the fact that a jazzy sax-centric tune is followed by a spectacular synth outlet which itself is succeeded by a beatless albeit salubrious circumambience is a comparatively risky endeavor even in the zoetropic world of Vaporwave. There’s a reason this genre is still narrowed down to a per-song adventure, with most of its albums overcharged with farragos and sundries. Blackleaf黒葉 prevent this sentiment from becoming certainty, and they do it with the aid of atmosphere; indeed, each and every tune of their album exudes and bleeds semi-mournful sorrows, contemplative strolls, baroclinic boundaries and, at the very end, the gravitational redshift that ends the formerly adiabatic complexion. The synths are still glowing, sometimes even in neon colors as they should be, but several filters, strata and alluvial gluons never point leeway, but back into the abyss, ready for a listening session past midnight.


Further listening and reading:


Vaporwave Review 077: Blackleaf黒葉 – DMT Debut (2015). Originally published on May 11, 2015 at